Second Languages -  

          A second language is simply a first language that other people fluently speak as a native language. Although there will be common processes between languages which second language learners can adapt from their first language, most people do not appreciate how much work is involved in learning a new language and creating communicative fluency in it.


        Keith Field is a leading second Language teaching authority contended that before the national curriculum was introduced that every second language method had been tried. Teaching and learning a second language is very similar to learning maths. It is ab undeveloped basic skill. Well-developed professional teaching skills are needed to teach it effectively.


       There has been a master-apprentice view of second language teaching.” I can speak a language and I will show you how to do it” attitude. There is a lot of fake science second language learning method that exist like deSuggestopedia.


         There are cheap websites promising to be scientifically researched. Hurd and Murphy  of the Open University contended that :-

    “Often as learners we settled with unrealistic assumptions, some of which had been fostered by the advertising employed by some providers of language learning along the lines of “Learn a language in three weeks!”

Learning of a second language is unlikely to yield learning success unless learners are thoroughly drowned in the language they are attempting to learn.

              It takes around 6,000 hours of practice to develop a basic new language fluency and around 10,000 hours to reach full rounded native like language fluency. Learners need to bring a new vocabulary of around 15,000 to 20,000 words into fluency to have a fluent conversation with a native language speaker.

      There is nothing special about learning any new language. There are 66,000 languages in the world. Certain languages have distinct characteristics like the dreaded mutations in the Welsh Language. Some languages will be easier to learn than others.

    Most European languages are similar and derive from similar roots and they share a common alphabet. Arabic countries have a distinct alphabet, which is written from right to left, as opposed to left to right, as in western languages. This will make them very difficult to learn.

         Most second languages are learnt through positive language transfer, where the native language is used as a scaffold to learn the second. In the Welsh language, for instance, 'red bus' literally translates into 'bus red', bws Coch.

Positive transfer will be difficult to apply when there are distinct different forms in each language. There is no direct translation in Welsh to the English ‘have', for instance. There is a range of words, terms that are its equivalent in Welsh.

Learning a Second Language


      There is a distinction made between modern foreign languages and second languages. If an English speaker learns French in the United Kingdom, for instance, he will be learning a modern foreign language, but if he learns it in France, then he will be learning a second language.

          Cognitively both are acquired in very similar ways, but when learners learn  a majority language, which they need to learn to use to live their everyday lives in the country they are living in, then it will be much easier for them to learn the language, because the language will be all around them. Languages cannot be learnt, they must be lived through. Classroom language learning can only be a preparation for this.

         What people do not often appreciate is that languages rise above the meanings of words and the sum of the word meanings. They are not codes. Native speakers have common ground understanding that is exchanged between those who speak any given language.

      The problem with learning a heritage language like Welsh, Scottish or Irish Gaelic is that they are minority languages, which on the whole, learners do not need to use to live their
everyday lives, and they are not all around them.

       Although some languages are easier to learn than others, English and French are viewed as difficult languages to learn, for instance, attempting a language is a huge challenge. Professor Sarah Eaton, who is a professor of Education in Calgary School of Edudcation:-


"The challenges of learning another language are immense. There's vocabulary to be acquired, grammar to master and verb conjugations to memorize. All of this information must be internalized, synthesized and then reproduced spontaneously as interactive speech. It's an enormous feat. It's an enormous feat that millions have undertaken. Those who achieve fluency put in lots of hard work.”

and she says :-

“Let’s be honest. Learning a language is not easy. There are companies out there who make big bucks selling slick packages with audio programs and pocket books, touting the idea that you can listen to their CDs or MP3s in the car, or on the bus and learn a language…What these companies are selling is hope. They are selling the idea that learning a language is effortless. What is more common is that people struggle. Even Mahatma Gandhi, who was deeply intelligent and patient, confessed to finding it difficult to learn language”


           Hunter and turn harnest Welsh language tutors Contended that many Welsh language learns attend courses without English having any appreciation of how much work is involved in learning and how long it takes to learn. And they make the point there is no point in learning Welsh superficially. There is Evidence that this is being kept discreet head Wales Welsh language campaigners.



References - Further Reading

Coleman and Klapper (2005)

DeKaser (2007) 

Field (2000)

Hurd and  Murphy (2000)xx

Mitchell et al (2019)xxxx

Saville Troike (2006)